Asana at TechInclusion 2016

Two weeks ago, Asana sponsored TechInclusion 2016, an annual conference focused on inclusive innovation organized by Change Catalyst. Our participation in the conference included a panel discussion with our co-founder, Justin, and head of diversity, Sonja, and sending several employees to attend. One important thread that stood out among Asanas was the importance of sharing our learnings with one another—both within our company and beyond. I sat down with Alex, Amy, Josh, Miyishia, and Sara to hear what they learned from the two-day event.

Create a truly inclusive environment

The degree to which companies are more committed to advance diversity and inclusion really stood out to many Asanas. This ranged from building inclusive products to employment retention, and reducing bias in hiring by implementing tactics that are skill-based.

One theme that stood out to me was being inclusive from an employer’s standpoint. The conference openly recognized the need for companies not only to build inclusive products, but emphasized the need for inclusive cultures, too. The conference set a great example for this by including people with disabilities in the conversation, from panels on being hearing impaired in tech to conference accommodations like live transcription and interpreters. Miyishia Slay, Relationship Marketing Lead

Cassius Johnson really struck a chord when he said that ‘Talent is distributed equally, opportunity is not. Josh Torres, Social Media Marketing Manager

Empathy in the workplace

A recurring theme across panel discussions was how to create a safe workplace for employees to express self-identity and to find solace after tragic events. Most solutions focused on the importance of mentorship and employee resource groups, having awkward conversations about race and bias, and providing training on how to be an ally to underrepresented groups.

I loved seeing the trend of empathy in the workplace being something that people are focusing on since feelings haven’t historically been welcome there. Alex Estrada, Communications Designer

Room to do more

While progress has been made in D&I across the tech industry, we all noticed there’s room to do so much more:

  • Leslie Miley from Slack pointed out that tech companies tend to overcomplicate diversity recruiting.
  • Julie Ann Crommet dove into the cycle that exists between media and tech—there’s no representation of minorities in the media in technology, which feeds the lack of minorities in the industry itself.
  • People can’t aspire to be something they don’t see. Tech workers from underrepresented groups must be community leaders to provide the next generation with a representative example to look up to.
  • Attracting women with perks like nursing rooms isn’t enough. We must be part of a cultural shift to build environments that encourage all groups to feel valued at work, not just accommodated.
  • Discrimination still happens within tech organizations— a few TechInclusion panelists shared their own personal discrimination incidents within their companies.

Headed in the right direction

While Asana does not have it figured out, we practice what we preach by implementing diversity and inclusion practices in our hiring and culture building processes. We provide learning talks, conscious leadership training, employee resource groups, and host ad hoc discussions for employees that need a safe space. By analyzing our own efforts, we recognize how important these initiatives are to the core of our business.

I kept hearing questions people asked about how they can do better at D&I and I thought to myself that Asana is setting a good example. I felt proud because we go out of our way to actively participate to make things better while acknowledging that we’re not where we want to be...yet Alex Estrada, Communications Designer

Radical empowerment is something we talk about a lot at Asana, and knowing that I had a place to bring my ideas from the conference back to made me feel empowered. I didn’t leave with the usual feeling of frustration from not having a course of action for my new learnings. Sara Caldwell, Customer Success Manager

To me, it was really important to see JR and Sonja representing us, especially because they’re the ones with decision making power. I was also proud to see fellow Asanas there throughout the conference. Amy Lee, Customer Success Manager

Learn from others

Finally, we should never stop learning from great organizations and individuals who are leading the cause, like Jim Deters of Galvanize to Deldelp Medina of Code2040, to Cassius Johnson, Y’vonee Hutchison, Mandela Schumacher-Hodge, Julie Ann Crommett, and a number of other inspiring speakers. We pledge to continue to learn from these organizations and to be a partner in pushing D&I efforts forward.

Special thanks to Alex Estrada, Amy Lee, Josh Torres, Miyishia Slay, and Sara Caldwell

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